Flames belief "maybe the strongest it's been all year" amidst wild card chase

Apr 1 2023, 8:14 pm

It’s not quite a mountain that the Calgary Flames have to scale.

It’s no molehill either, though.

And the Flames know there’s plenty of work to done to jump ahead of the Winnipeg Jets and plant a flag in the destination that is the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

“I guess we don’t control our own destiny but to an extent, if we win out, our chances are good,” forward Blake Coleman detailed Saturday. “And I think there’s just been times where maybe the belief’s kind of wavered, whether it be in the room or in the media, wherever it is. I think it’s maybe the strongest it’s been all year right now, and guys are feeling confident in their games.

“It’s still going to be hard work and it’s still an uphill climb and it’s not easy to leapfrog a team in the standings at this time of year with this few games left, but I like where we’re at and I like our group right now and I think as long as guys keep this preparation and buy-in it’s going to be a really exciting last couple of weeks.”

Despite rallying to win their first win this season when trailing after 40 minutes in an eventual 5-4 overtime victory at the Vancouver Canucks, the Flames remain two points back of the Jets with just six spins remaining on the season.

It was a must-win — they all are at this point — after Winnipeg dumped the Detroit Red Wings earlier in the day.

A score they were very much aware of.

“Every year at this time of the year you check the standings and scores more than you do earlier in the year or at midseason,” Backlund said. “Of course you check how Winnipeg is doing. At the same time we’ve got to take care of our own business first and win our games. If we don’t do that it doesn’t matter. But at the same time, you’re always checking and seeing when it’s really close.

“I knew we were down during the game if we lose this one we’re going to be behind four again. It felt really great to come back and keep the gap at two points and keep the pressure on.”

Mix in a head-to-head at Winnipeg next week, and certainly the pressure’s on a team that reportedly had a “come-to-Jesus” moment not too long ago.

“The game against Winnipeg doesn’t matter if you don’t set yourself up for it,” Coleman said. “Our focus is on Anaheim right now and then we’ll take it day-by-day and look to the next opponent. They beat us here in our building. There’s no easy games in the NHL. If you look past a team you’re going to be in trouble. I think our mindset’s really strong right now and this team will be ready.

“Every game’s a playoff game right now.”

For Calgary. For Winnipeg.

Looking up. Looking down.

Looking at the Nashville Predators, too, who are very much in the mix. The Predators trail the Flames by one point with one game at hand, and sit three points back of the Jets overall.

“We’ll check them, too,” Backlund said. “They’ve got games at hand. We also know they’ve got a really tough schedule, but anything can happen. So yeah, we’re checking theirs.”

‘Tis the season, after all.

“Day by day,” said Jonathan Huberdeau, one of Saturday’s heroes. “It’s not to look ahead or think ‘is this team going to win’ or ‘is this team not going to win.’ It’s just to focus on yourself and be prepared and do whatever’s best for the team and play well and give everything until the end.

“There’s only six games left. Give everything you have.”

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